A cute YA rom-com with amazing Desi rep

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Kismat Connection was a delightful rom-com about the second generation immigrant experience and learning to accept and embrace your culture. Although I’m not Indian-American, I grew up in a predominantly Desi/Indian community and could really relate to a lot of Devarajan’s cultural references, down to the flying chappals. The representation is a true strength of this book, and I especially love how effortlessly Devarajan wove together so many different issues that arise from the second gen experience. Madhuri’s struggle to reconcile her two cultures and her desperate drive to hold off accepting her Indian heritage until college felt very authentic and was something I really related to. Similarly, Devarajan does a wonderful job of making sure that none of her characters fall into stereotypes, and I was especially glad to see how close the Iyer family was to each other. It also made me very happy to see the multiethnic Indian rep (Madhuri is Tamil and alluded to being South-Indian while Arjun speaks Hindi), something I feel is severely lacking in media representations of Indian-Americans.

While the general fake-dating circumstances required quite the suspension of belief, the romance was fun while also feeling very natural. Arjun and Madhuri’s childhood-friends-to-lovers was well executed. Arjun was definitely my favorite character of the book, and while his very un-toxic and secure masculinity is sure to win over a lot of readers, I found his true strength was his acceptance of found family over his blood relatives. The many forms of positive acceptance tugged at my heartstrings, especially as a second generation immigrant myself.

However, the reason I’m rating this 4/5 is because I felt like the draft I read was definitely indicative of a debut novel and wasn’t too close to the final version. It was clear that there were some edits that needed to be made, from awkward phrasing to underdeveloped/choppy plot points. There was plenty of nice prose that earned a little highlight and annotation while reading, but there were also a lot of moments that felt disjointed or a bit too episodic. The foundations of the story were there and I could clearly see what Devarajan was going for, but the execution wasn’t quite there for me. Similarly, the prose faltered at times. Still, I was willing to overlook that since the story and cast of characters were compelling. Kismat Connection was a fun and breezy read that I know many of my younger Desi friends would enjoy.

Thank you to Edelweiss+ and Inkyard Press (HarperCollins Publishers) for the e-ARC! All thoughts and opinions are my own.

3.5/5 stars